January 27, 2020
Photo: Ian Wilson
The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary released its draft management plan, A Restoration Blueprint, in August, setting in motion a period of debate and public comment.
FKNMS has the challenging job of striking the right balance between human use of the marine environment and conservation. Not only is our feedback requested, it’s critically important that we participate in the process. The outcome will define how the Sanctuary is managed for years to come, and has the capacity to impact the livelihoods, culture and economy of the Florida Keys.
We met recently with FKNMS Superintendent Sarah Fangman to discuss BTT’s Position Statement and recommendations for improving the Restoration Blueprint. It was a productive meeting and bodes well for the collaborative process moving forward. However, we came away from the meeting concerned that the Sanctuary may not include the pole/troll zones proposed by BTT, the Lower Keys Guides Association and Florida Keys Guides Association, which are intended to protect the flats fishery and the habitats that support it.
We also remain concerned about the proposed management of Western Dry Rocks (WDR), likely the most important permit spawning site in the Lower Keys. BTT supports a seasonal spring – summer “no entry” closure at the site. This is based on research data showing that more than one-third of hooked permit at WDR are consumed by sharks before they are landed. Given the potential for this fishery to become more popular, and that predation rates are likely already unsustainable at current levels of fishing effort, BTT is advocating for a spawning season closure, and we ask that you do the same.
During the Sanctuary’s planning process, anglers and guides have the potential to gain considerable ground in habitat protection for our fishery—but we also have a lot to lose. The Sanctuary still needs to hear from you! Public comment submitted to FKNMS hasn’t kept pace with the debates in our skiffs or on social media. We urge you to make your voice heard by the January 31 deadline. You can provide feedback to the Sanctuary online in the federal eRulemaking Portal. Click Here to learn about the proposed regulations that BTT supports.
As always, we thank you for your support of our mission and advocacy on behalf of the flats fishery.
Jim McDuffie, BTT President and CEO
Dr. Aaron Adams, BTT Director of Science and Conservation
Dr. Ross Boucek, BTT Florida Keys Initiative Manager
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